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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Shrinking bureaucracy and other fleeting plans

In five years, the government stands to lose a large part of its workforce due to retirement, according to Sen. Sabina Perez, who is proposing “long-term solutions through successional planning” that will be incorporated into school curriculum.

The goal is to provide long-term and stable careers—and perhaps, promotion — for civil servants, who are typically shut out of the opportunities to climb up the ladder because merit-based career civil service is a myth.

Many government employees see public employment as a dead-end career — what with inexperienced political appointees getting the spoils after each election. The top post in every department and agency goes to the loyal political supporter, who will have to train on the job. They have the tendency to make lousy decisions, as long as they please the appointing power.

Political patronage, the most notorious political practice, is often synonymous with malfeasance and incompetence.

But you see, GovGuam leaders always have grand plans.

In 2015, about 400 Adelup-appointed “imagineers” gathered at Dusit Thani Guam Resort for the launch of a colossal community task – to imagine Guam 50 years from now, and eventually to develop a comprehensive strategic plan--covering a wide range of topics that included government accountability and streamlining--that will guide the island toward 2065. It was a major production that has since gone pfft.

In 2012, the Guam Legislature created a Modernization and Rightsizing Commission of the Government of Guam, whose job is to streamline the government, abolish antiquated agencies and bring GovGuam “into the 21st century.” Eight years later, the commission accomplished nothing, winding up among the list of useless government entities that collect dust. Nobody remembers that this law exists.

Streamlining is an occasional buzzword in government. But the fervor always fizzles out. Several discussions — bills filed, and all — on consolidating redundant agencies were shelved. Meanwhile, creating new agencies, either through legislation or executive orders, seems like a government hobby.

The 2018 Transition Committee commissioned by the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration found approximately 112 boards, commissions, and councils, with a combined total of approximately 945 statutorily required members for all boards, commissions and councils. Currently, there are 632 sitting board members and 313 vacant or expired board positions.

“The GovGuam is the largest employer of our island’s labor force. Since its inception, it has evolved into an unwieldy bureaucracy based on an industrial model rooted in the early 19th century,” states the transition report.

Compounding the incredible size of bureaucracy is the restrictive attitude. Getting things done in government is exactly how Kakfa described it: a seemingly endless labyrinth that is difficult to navigate.

“This type of organizational structure is often slow to move, compartmentalized in its formation and heavily reliant on incremental output, which locks employees into a ‘job description’ mentality,” the report said.

The committee underscored the need for transformation that requires “radical changes in attitude and behavior.”

Perhaps, attrition through retirement is the best way to shrink the bureaucracy and executing the proposed “long-term solutions through successional planning” might motivate open-minded GovGuam employees who are eager to upgrade their skills.

Smart vision. Unless this is another ne of GovGuam's fleeting grand plans with technocratic-sounding brand.


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